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Your Child

Obesity Related Heart Disease Found in Children as Young as 8

2:00

All you have to do is look around, wherever children are gathered, to see that there are far too many kids that are overweight in this country.  And sadly, some of these children may already be developing heart disease according to a new study.

The study reports that obese children as young as 8 years of age, are beginning to show signs of heart abnormalities.

"It is both surprising and alarming to us that even the youngest obese children in our study who were 8 years old had evidence of heart disease," said study lead author Linyuan Jing, a postdoctoral fellow with Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa.

"Ultimately, we hope that the effects we see in the hearts of these children are reversible," Jing added. "However, it is possible that there could be permanent damage."

Researchers conducted MRI scans of 40 children between 8 and 16 years old. Half of the participants were obese; the other half was of normal weight for their age and height.

They found that the obese children had an average of 27 percent more muscle mass in the left ventricle region their heart, and 12 percent thicker heart muscle overall. Both are considered indicators of heart disease, Jing said.

Among 40 percent of the obese children, scans showed thickened heart muscle had already translated into a reduced ability to pump blood. The children with this reduced heart capacity were considered to be at “high risk” for adult cardiac strain and heart disease.

"This should be further motivation for parents to help children lead a healthy lifestyle," Jing said.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, called the findings "alarming."

Some of the obese children in the study were struggling with health complications often associated with excess weight, including asthma, high blood pressure and depression, the researchers said. But none displayed customary warning signs of heart disease such as fatigue, dizziness or shortness of breath, Jing said.

The study did not include kids with diabetes or those that were too large to fit inside the MRI scanning machine. Jing noted that the study might actually underestimate how many children are suffering from heart related problems associated with obesity.

Jing said it’s up to parents to help their children maintain a healthy weight. They should buy healthy foods instead of cheap fast food and fruit juice, "which is high in sugar but low in fiber," she said.

She also recommended that parents limit TV, computer and video game time and encourage more physical outdoor activities.

Childhood obesity isn’t just an American problem; it’s a global problem as well.  The World Heart Federation says that one in 10 school-aged children worldwide are estimated to be overweight. However, in the USA, the number of overweight children has doubled and the number of overweight adolescents has tripled since 1980.

The researchers believe that schools can play a role in helping families understand the health problems associated with obesity.

“…Schools and communities need to do a better job at educating both the parents and children about the health risks of overweight and obesity," said Jing.

Fonarow agreed adding, "Substantially increased efforts are needed to prevent and treat childhood obesity."

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Fla.

Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Source: Alan Mozes, http://consumer.healthday.com/cardiovascular-health-information-20/misc-stroke-related-heart-news-360/obese-kids-as-young-as-8-show-heart-disease-signs-705099.html

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Should Children Lift Weights?

I am often asked by both young patients and their parents if children can participate in weight lifting and strengthening exercises.

I think the appropriate term is strength training and conditioning, rather than weight lifting, which connotes competition and the need for heavier and heavier weights. When done appropriately, strength training and conditioning is great for kids of all ages, and really encourages being physically fit. Weightlifting is not appropriate for a growing child as it can put too much strain on the tendons and cartilage. This is especially true when kids become competitive about lifting bigger and bigger weights at the risk of long-term injury. Allowing children to weight lift in hopes of “bulking up” or “building the biggest muscles” before pubertal development and their growth spurt is inappropriate. All of that can be deferred for the post pubertal athlete. On the other hand, an age appropriate strength training and conditioning program may actually be protective of a child’s joints by increasing their muscle strength and their endurance. By participating in supervised and structured strengthening programs, a child as young as eight may improve their endurance, body awareness and balance, all of which are beneficial. A strength-training program can be done without weights, as in resistance training, by simply using the child’s body weight. Examples of this would be abdominal crunches, push-ups and pull-ups. These are great ideas for the younger children. For older children free weights or resistance bands may be added. Parents or coaches who are familiar with the use of free weights should always supervise. Start out with lighter weights, and make sure that the child can do at least 10 repetitions with the weight, if not, drop to a lower free weight. Have the adult watch the child for form and technique and supervise any increase in weights or repetitions. There are also many programs through local gyms and YMCA’s tailored just for kids to participate in strength training. When beginning a conditioning program encourage your child to have a warm up period, with a little aerobic activity like walking or running as this his will help to warm the muscles and prevent injury. After the strength training it is equally important to have a cool down period with gentle stretching. Many children enjoy working out with their parents and this can become a family activity (we can all use the exercise) to promote coordination, healthy bones, joints, cholesterol and blood pressure. Most importantly make it fun! That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Your Child

Adult and Childhood ADHD Two Different Disorders?

1:45

A couple of recent studies are taking a new look at the differences in adult and childhood ADHD.

They suggest that adult ADHD is not just a continuation of childhood ADHD, but that the two are different disorders entirely.

In addition, the researchers say that adult-onset ADHD might actually be more common than childhood onset.

The two studies used similar methodology and showed fairly similar results.

The first study, conducted by a team at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, evaluated more than 5,000 individuals born in the city of Pelotas in 1993. Approximately 9 percent of them were diagnosed with childhood ADHD — a fairly average rate. Twelve percent of the subjects met criteria for ADHD in adulthood — significantly higher than the researchers expected — but there was very little overlap between the groups. In fact, only 12.6 percent of the adults with ADHD had shown diagnosable signs of the disorder in childhood.

The second study, which looked at 2,040 twins born in England and Wales from 1994-5, found that of 166 subjects who met the criteria for adult ADHD, more than half (67.5 percent) showed no symptoms of ADHD in childhood. Of the 247 individuals who had met the criteria for ADHD in childhood, less than 22 percent retained that diagnosis into adulthood.

These reports support findings from a third study from New Zealand, published in 2015. Researchers followed subjects from birth to age 38. Of the patients who showed signs of ADHD in adulthood in that study, 90 percent had demonstrated no signs of the disorder in childhood.

While the results from these studies suggests that the widely accepted definition of ADHD – a disorder that develops in childhood, is occasionally “outgrown” as the patient ages- may need to be reassessed.

However, not everyone is on board with the recent findings. Some experts suggest that the study’s authors may have simply missed symptoms of ADHD in childhood in cases where it didn’t seem to become apparent until adulthood.

“Because these concerns suggest that the UK, Brazil, and New Zealand studies may have underestimated the persistence of ADHD and overestimated the prevalence of adult-onset ADHD, it would be a mistake for practitioners to assume that most adults referred to them with ADHD symptoms will not have a history of ADHD in youth,” write Stephen Faraone, Ph.D., and Joseph Biederman, M.D., in an editorial cautioning the ADHD community to interpret the two most recent studies with a grain of salt. They called the findings “premature.”

In both of these studies and in previous research, adult ADHD has been linked to high levels of criminal behavior, substance abuse, traffic accidents and suicide attempts. These troubling correlations remained even after the authors adjusted for the existence of other psychiatric disorders — proving once again that whether it develops in childhood or adulthood, untreated ADHD is serious business.

Both of the studies challenge conventional beliefs that childhood onset ADHD is more likely to continue into adulthood. Many experts would like to see more research on this topic to verify these findings

The two studies were published in the July 2016 issue of JAMA Psychiatry.

Story source: Devon Frye, http://www.additudemag.com/adhdblogs/19/12040.html

Your Child

It’s Official; CDC Says Flu is Epidemic

2:00

The flu has reached epidemic levels in the United States, with 15 children dead so far this season, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported at the end of December 2014.

Every year, the U.S. reaches a point where the number of flu cases enters the epidemic stage.  There’s no way to tell right now if this year’s flu season will end up being more or less severe than previous ones. Those statistics won’t be available till later in the year.

No state will be spared this season with more flu cases and deaths’ increasing in the next few weeks says Dr. Michael Jhung, a medical officer in CDC's influenza division. "We are in the middle of flu season," Jhung said. "It's a safe bet that we are going to see flu activity continue to increase for a few more weeks. We are going to see every state in the country affected by flu."

The number of children’s deaths from flu changes every year. The latest victim may be a 17 year-old-girl in Minnesota. She was diagnosed with the flu and sent home to recover. Shanna Zwanziger had the flu for about a week before she died says her family. Her mother said Shanna was given the choice of whether to get the vaccine or not, and she chose not to.

The South, Midwest and Western states have been especially hard hit this flu season. At least six children have died in Tennessee and four in Minnesota, according to published reports.

The predominant flu strain this season is the H3N2 virus, the CDC says. This virus is not well matched to this year's flu vaccine, but what part this mismatch is playing in flu deaths isn't known, Jhung said.

The CDC acknowledges that that this year’s flu vaccine is not a good match for the most dominant strain of the virus. That’s because there’s not just one type of flu and the virus can mutate. This year’s vaccine was created before one of the viruses mutated. However, experts say that getting this year’s vaccine can still help protect you and can help make symptoms less severe if you get the flu.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot. It's not too late to get vaccinated, Jhung said. More than one type of flu is circulating, and the vaccine protects against at least three strains of circulating virus, he added.

"If you encounter one of those viruses where there is a very good match, then you will be well-protected," he said. "Even if there isn't a great match, the vaccine still provides protection against the virus that's circulating."

Many people get the flu and recover at home. They spend anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks feeling very bad and then start to feel better. But others face life-threatening complications – such as pneumonia- according to the CDC.

Jhung says parents should always take the flu seriously, and get medical help if their child is very sick.

Warning signs might include a cough that disrupts sleep, a fever that doesn't come down with treatment, or increased shortness of breath, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

There are treatments for the flu such as Tamiflu and Relenza. "Those work best when they are given very quickly. So if you do have signs and symptoms of flu, reach out to a health care provider and get evaluated," Jhung said.

The flu season moves into its later stage in January and February, with different flu types taking the lead. It’s not too late to get your family the flu shot. They are still available at physician’s offices as well as at many pharmacies and health care centers.

Sources: Steven Reinberg, http://consumer.healthday.com/infectious-disease-information-21/flu-news-314/flu-now-epidemic-in-u-s-with-15-child-deaths-reported-695066.html

Liz Neporent, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/years-subpar-flu-shot-save-life/story?id=27898830

Your Toddler

AAP: Winter Car Seat Safety

2:00

So far in Texas, this year’s El Nino weather pattern has made for a pretty mild winter compared to previous years. But, other areas around the country are being hit hard with a wintery punch and it’s only a matter of time till temperatures drop and snow and ice find their way to the Lone Star State.

Winter can be a bit tricky for child car seat use. While it sounds like the opposite might be true, bulky clothing such as coats and snowsuits should not be worn under the car seat harness.

More padding - more cushion right? That seems logical until you know what happens when a car crashes. In a wreck, fluffy padding immediately flattens out from the force, leaving extra space under the harness. A child can then slip through the straps and be thrown from the seat.

So how can you keep your little one warm and protected while buckled up? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has these tips to help strike a comfortable and safer balance.

·      Use a coat or blanket over the straps. You can add a blanket over the top of the harness straps or put your child's winter coat on backwards (over the buckled harness straps) after he or she is buckled up. Some parents prefer products such as poncho-style coats or jackets that zip down the sides so the back can flip forward over the harness. Keep in mind that the top layer should be removable so your baby doesn't get too hot after the car warms up.

·      Use a car seat cover ONLY if it does not have a layer under the baby. Nothing should ever go underneath your child's body or between her body and the harness straps. Be sure to leave baby's face uncovered to avoid trapped air and re-breathing. Many retailers carry car seat bundling products that are not safe to use in a car seat. Just because it's on the shelf at the store does not mean it is safe!

·      Dress your child in thin layers. Start with close-fitting layers on the bottom, like tights, leggings, and long-sleeved bodysuits. Then add pants and a warmer top, like a sweater or thermal-knit shirt. Your child can wear a thin fleece jacket over the top. In very cold weather, long underwear is also a warm and safe layering option. As a general rule of thumb, infants should wear one more layer than adults. If you have a hat and a coat on, your infant will probably need a hat, coat, and blanket.

·      Don't forget hats, mittens, and socks or booties. These help keep kids warm without interfering with car seat straps. If your child is a thumb sucker, consider half-gloves with open fingers or keep an extra pair or two of mittens handy — once they get wet they'll make your child colder rather than warmer.

·      Get an early start. If you're planning to head out the door with your baby in tow on winter mornings, you need an early start. You have a lot to assemble, and your baby may not be the most cooperative. Plus, driving in wintry conditions will require you to slow down and be extra cautious.

·      Tighten the straps of the car seat harness. Even if your child looks snuggly bundled up in the car seat, multiple layers may make it difficult to tighten the harness enough. If you can pinch the straps of the car seat harness, then it needs to be tightened to fit snugly against your child's chest.

·      Remember, if the item did not come with the car seat, it has not been crash tested and may interfere with the protection provided in a crash. Never use sleeping bag inserts or other stroller accessories in the car seat.

·      Store the carrier portion of infant seats inside the house when not in use. Keeping the seat at room temperature will reduce the loss of the child's body heat in the car.

·      Pack an emergency bag for your car. Keep extra blankets, dry clothing, hats and gloves, and non-perishable snacks in your car in case of an on-road emergency or your child gets wet on a winter outing.

·      Make sure your cell phone is charged. If there is an emergency, you want to be able to reach 911 or call for assistance in case of a flat tire or engine trouble.

This is a time when there is a lot of holiday travel from state to state or just down the road to grandma’s house.

Remember, it’s not just children in car seats whose coats shouldn’t be tucked under the harness, adults and older children should make sure their coats are on the outside of the seat-belt.

Little steps can make a big difference in everyone’s safety.

Source: https://healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Winter-Car-Seat-Safety-Tips.aspx

Your Baby

Kids of Obese Mothers at Higher Risk for Autism, ADHD

1:45

A new study points out another reason that obesity and pregnancy can be a bad combination not only for the mother but for her future child as well.

Researchers found that six-year-olds whose mothers were severely obese before pregnancy are more likely to have developmental or emotional problems than kids of healthy-weight mothers.

The lead author of the study, Heejoo Jo of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and her team reviewed data on 1,311 mother-child pairs collected between 2005 and 2012, including the mothers’ body mass index (BMI, a height-to-weight ratio) before pregnancy and their reports of the children’s psychosocial difficulties at age six.

The researchers also incorporated the children’s developmental diagnoses and receipt of special needs services.

Kids of moms who were severely obese, with a BMI greater than 35, were twice as likely to have emotional symptoms, problems with peers and total psychosocial difficulties compared to kids of moms who had a healthy BMI, between 18.5 and 25.

Their children were three times as likely to have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and more than four time as likely to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as reported in the journal Pediatrics.

Previous studies have shown a connection with autism and maternal diabetes and obesity.

Researchers took into account pregnancy weight gain, gestational diabetes, breastfeeding duration, postpartum depression and infant birth weight. None of these explained the apparent association.

“We already do know that obesity is related to health problems during pregnancy and throughout the lifetime,” Jo said. “I think this adds to that by suggesting that not only does severe obesity affect a woman’s health but the health of her future children.”

This study could not analyze the mechanism linking severe obesity and later risk for developmental problems, Jo noted.

“One theory that we could not look at and needs further research was some small studies have linked maternal obesity to increased inflammation, which might affect fetal brain development,” she told Reuters Health by phone.

While it sounds cliché because we’ve heard it so much; obesity in America has reached epidemic status. Almost 30 percent of Americans are obese and the prevalence of maternal obesity has risen rapidly in the last two decades.

In the USA, approximately 64% of women of reproductive age are overweight and 35% obese.

Women’s health specialists recommend that obese women considering pregnancy lose weight before they conceive to help reduce health risks for themselves as well as their child.

The Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for developmental delay or disability at nine, 18 and 24 or 30 months of age.

Health experts strongly suggest that women who were obese or severely obese when they became pregnant make sure that their children receive these developmental screenings.

Sources: Kathryn Doyle, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/28/us-obese-pregnancy-adhd-kids-idUSKBN0NJ2FC20150428

James R. O'Reilly, Rebecca M. Reynolds, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/776504

Your Child

New Guidelines for Tonsillectomies

Most children who get repeated throat infections probably don’t need surgery to remove their tonsils and would improve in time with careful monitoring, according to new clinical guidelines on tonsillectomies in children.

The new guidelines also suggest, however, that removal of the tonsils, or tonsillectomy, may improve problems tied to poor sleep, including bed-wetting, slow growth, hyperactive behavior, and poor school performance. In fact, sleep-disordered breathing -- a set or problems that range from snoring to obstructive sleep apnea - is now the most common reason for tonsil removal in kids younger than 15. “We used to think that only if you were an air traffic controller did it matter if you slept well or not, and now we know that’s not the case,” says Amelia F. Drake, MD, chief of the division of pediatric otolaryngology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. More than half a million tonsillectomies are performed each year on children in the U.S., making it the second most common surgery in this age group, just behind procedures to place tubes in the ears to relieve recurrent ear infections. Despite the fact that it is a mainstay of American medicine, experts have long disagreed about how useful or appropriate tonsillectomies may be. The new guidelines, published Monday by the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, are the first set of official recommendations on tonsillectomy published in the U.S. The guidelines aim to give doctors and parents more information about when tonsillectomy may be warranted and to help minimize the risks and pain of this procedure in young patients. “I thought they were very comprehensive,” says Drake, who reviewed the new recommendations but was not involved in drafting them. “This is an area where improvements and refinements can have a huge impact. This is medicine at its core.” New Criteria for Removing Tonsils The guidelines update a set of clinical indicators for tonsillectomies published in 2000 by the American Academy of Otolaryngology, which suggested that doctors could consider taking out the tonsils if a child had at least three cases of swollen and infected tonsils in a year. The new guideline, however, says that kids should have at least seven episodes of throat infection, such as tonsillitis or strep throat in a year, or at least five episodes each year for two years, or three episodes annually for three years, before they become candidates for surgery, and that those infections should be documented by a doctor, rather than just reported by parents. The idea, experts said, was to reserve surgery only for the most severely affected, because the surgery can rarely have serious complications including infections and serious bleeding. “Children who have fewer episodes really aren’t going to see a lot of benefit,” says Jack L. Paradise, MD, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “There aren’t many kids, overall, who meet those stringent criteria,” Paradise says. What’s more, Paradise, and other experts stress, that even children who satisfy the guidelines shouldn’t get an automatic green light for surgery. “I’m not sure, if I had a child that met all the criteria, that I’d automatically subject the child to the consequences of that,” Paradise says, “Post-operatively, it’s a very painful procedure.” The tonsils are cone-shaped lumps of tissue embedded in the throat, and they are believed to play a role in how the body responds to infections, though experts aren’t exactly sure how. But in the early part of the 20th century, the tonsils were blamed as the “focus of infection” in the body, and doctors began taking them out as a way to promote good health. The operation became so common for example, that entire classrooms of youngsters would get their tonsils taken out at school. But by the 1970s, many experts were questioning how effective and appropriate it was to subject kids to a painful operation that could have rare but serious complications; all for what new research suggested were minimal improvements in the risk of sore throats. At the same time, however, doctors were starting to become more aware of the myriad problems tied to sleep disordered breathing in children, a spectrum of problems that can range from snoring to obstructive sleep apnea. And more tonsils began to be taken out as a way to open up the airway and improve sleep. Improvement in Care for Kids Having Surgery Several of the guidelines suggest ways doctors and parents can improve the care of children having tonsillectomies. One of the strongest recommendations is against the use of antibiotics just before or just after surgery. “They are commonly given, and there’s no evidence that antibiotics offer any benefit,” says study researcher Reginald F. Baugh, MD, professor and chief of otolaryngology at the University of Toledo Medical Center in Ohio. “You run the risk of allergic reactions and there are the harms of over-prescribing.” In drafting the statement that advises doctors to counsel parents about the importance of pain management in kids after surgery, Baugh says the panel that reviewed the evidence behind the guidelines was alarmed to learn that many parents don’t give medications to control pain after the procedure. “That was one thing we really learned, about the importance of telling parents about the need to give pain meds in these kids,” Baugh says.

Your Baby

Preventing Peanut Allergies in High-Risk Children

2:00

New research suggests that, under clinical supervision, children that are at a high risk for developing a peanut allergy can build a lasting tolerance to the legume.

Children that participated in the new study were fed peanuts for years as part of a supervised clinical trial. Now, the researchers are reporting that those youngsters maintained their tolerance for at least a year, even if they didn't keep eating peanuts.

"The therapy persisted, and after 12 months of avoidance there was no increase in the rates of peanut allergy. They maintained their ability to tolerate peanuts, even though they hadn't been eating it," said Dr. Sherry Farzan, an allergist with Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. Farzan wasn't involved in the research.

This suggests that the immune system "learns" that peanut is not a threat to the body, and kids won't have to keep eating peanuts for the rest of their lives to maintain their tolerance, said Dr. Scott Sicherer. He's a pediatric allergy specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Sicherer also wasn't part of the current study.

This study is an extension of the groundbreaking LEAP (Learning Early about Peanut Allergy) clinical trial. Last year, that trial found that feeding peanuts to at-risk babies for 60 months reduced their risk of developing a peanut allergy. The study determined an infant's risk of peanut allergy using an allergy skin test.

Before the original LEAP study results, physicians told parents to avoid exposing their child to allergic foods until they were older and their immune system were more developed.

But the LEAP trial found that exposing at-risk kids to peanuts regularly beginning in infancy actually prevented peanut allergies by the time they reached age 5, Sicherer said. Eating peanuts lowered the rate of peanut allergy by 80 percent in the now-preschoolers, according to the study authors.

"For this high-risk group, waiting longer and longer to eat peanut isn't good," Sicherer said. "It's better to get it into your diet as soon as possible."

Both Farzan and Sicherer warned that this type of preventive strategy should only be given under a doctor’s supervision.

And, this prevention therapy is only for kids at risk of peanut allergy, not for kids who already have developed the allergy, Sicherer warned.

"If you have someone who already had a peanut allergy and gave them peanuts, then they'd get sick and maybe end up in an emergency room," he said.

After the initial study, researchers wanted to know if the children who were successful at building a tolerance to peanuts would have to eat them regularly for the rest of their lives.

To answer this question, the researchers followed more than 500 of the original 640 children for a one-year period of peanut avoidance. Half of this group included previous peanut consumers. The other half had always avoided peanuts.

 

After 12 months of peanut avoidance, only 5 percent of the original peanut consumers were found to be allergic, compared to 19 percent of the original peanut avoiders, the findings showed.

"This study offers reassurance that eating peanut-containing foods as part of a normal diet -- with occasional periods of time without peanut -- will be a safe practice for most children following successful tolerance therapy," said Dr. Gerald Nepom. He is director of the Immune Tolerance Network (ITN), the consortium behind the LEAP trial.

"The immune system appears to remember and sustain its tolerant state, even without continuous regular exposure to peanuts," he added in an ITN news release.

Farzan said there appears to be a "critical period" between 4 and 11 months where "we can push the immune system around a little."

Farzan and Sicherer both said that by the time kids reach age 5, the immune system appears to have accepted that peanuts aren't a danger to the body.

"After following this pattern, it may not be that important anymore, at least after age 5, to worry if someone isn't keeping up," Sicherer said. "It may not be necessary to keep up with such consistent ingestion."

According to the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public health, food allergies affect between 2 and 10 percent of U.S. children. Peanut allergy is considered the most fatal food allergy. 

The LEAP study, and now with the results from its extended research, may offer a new generation of children a chance at preventing this problematic allergy altogether.

Story source: HealthDay reporter Dennis Thompson, http://www.webmd.com/allergies/news/20160304/supervised-exposure-therapy-for-peanut-allergy-lasts-study-finds

 

Your Child

Probiotics Reduce Diarrhea and Respiratory Infections

2.00 to read

A daily dose of probiotics can reduce the occurrences of diarrhea or respiratory tract infections in children who attend day care according to a new study.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are similar to the natural and beneficial microorganisms found in the gut. They are often referred to as “good bacteria.”

In a study in Mexico, researchers tested 336 healthy children ages 6 months to 3 years who were attending day care centers. Half received a daily dose of Lactobacillus reuteri, a beneficial gut bacterium naturally present in many foods and in most people; the other half got an identical placebo.

The children were given probiotics or the placebo for 3 months and then followed for another 3 months without the supplements. During the study, 69 episodes of diarrhea were reported in the placebo group and 42 in the group receiving the probiotics. The placebo group had 204 respiratory tract infections, compared with 93 in those taking L. reuteri. And the placebo takers spent an average of 4.1 days on antibiotics, while the supplement users averaged 2.7 days. The differences persisted during the 12-week follow-up.

“What’s notable here is that they used a specific probiotic in a good design and they also did follow-up,” said Stephen S. Morse, an infectious disease specialist at Columbia University who was not involved in the study. “This strengthens the evidence for the value of probiotics, but we still have a lot to learn.”

The research group concluded that a daily administration of probiotics in healthy children in day care centers “had a significant effect in reducing episodes and duration of diarrhea and respiratory tract infection, with consequent cost savings for the communities”.

Probiotics have been added to many food and beverage products making it easier for parents to add them to their child’s diet.

The most common food is yogurt but some manufacturers have added probiotics to ice creams, granola bars, cereals, juices and yes…even pizza.

Some parents swear by probiotics saying that they have eased their children’s symptoms of colic, eczema and intestinal problems.

Antibiotics kill bad bacteria, but they can also kill the good bacteria and throw a child’s gut flora out of balance - leading to gastrointestinal distress. Previous studies have shown that adding supplements or foods containing probiotics to a child’s diet can have a positive affect on his or her bacterial balance.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics and was supported by a grant from a manufacturer of probiotic supplements.

Sources: Nicholas Bakalar, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/17/probiotic-eases-ills-in-children/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Nancy Gottesman, http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/feeding/healthy-eating/probiotics-the-friendly-bacteria/

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

When parents head back into the dating scene.

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